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Synopsis

A startling discovery is made after forensics accountant Ed Castillo accepts a project to inventory and value the bequeathed assets of a large estate, a requirement of the decedent’s last will and testament. This inheritance represents one of the largest private fortunes in the country; it is comprised of an estimated monetary value of nearly a billion dollars. The vast fortune belongs to one of the most prominent, oldest, and most venerable Florida families; for over seven centuries, this legacy has been the birthright of all eligible descendants who can trace their lineage to the aristocratic and affluent Castañeda dynasty.
Before the bequeathed riches can be awarded, an unusual document ... an encrypted manuscript containing a rhythmic enciphered message, its imprinted parchment paper ornately embossed with the ancestral emblem and the scroll itself wax sealed, stamped and engraved with the ancient brass seal of the Castañeda heraldic crest, must be removed from safekeeping and a formal procedural ritual must be observed. This requires that the seal be broken by the trustee of the estate in the presence of witnesses during a ceremony attended by all of the possible intended inheritors. The cryptic cadenced message of the scroll’s riddle must be then deciphered before the quest for the will can proceed. This message will provide a guide to the location of a mysterious old will, which must be found and unearthed from its undisclosed location. Then a series of trials must be passed, conditions met and legal requirements followed to ensure that all the unusual provisions found in the codicil of the will are being adhered to.

According to provisions of this ancient will, known as “The King’s Vellum,” dating back to a grant made by King Ferdinand II of Spain to the Conde de Castañeda, the entire fortune will be awarded to one heir, of which five remain alive …for now. However there can only be one living relative to inherit all of the wealth.

One of the most valuable assets of the Castañeda heritage and one of the most prized and coveted possessions of the Gardners’ was the historically significant and strategically located ancestral home of the Castañedas. This grand manor, known as “Las Palmas,” is a valuable piece of prime real estate. Many are vying to posses this valuable estate, and although legend warns that the imposing ancient fountain, which graces the great courtyard is cursed, it does not appear to be deterring anybody from aggressively pursuing its purchase. This property, located in the affluent neighborhood of Coco Plum on the intracostal, near the shores of Biscayne Bay in Miami Florida is the largest and most beautiful of all the properties on Coco Plum.

Castillo is soon persuaded to undertake the investigation of the nearly seven-year old unsolved missing person’s case of the Gardners, whose ancestors were the Castañedas. They were the wealthy couple who left the lucrative, and now bitterly contested, yet to be adjudicated will.

The Gardners were reported missing by their nephew during one hurricane wind-whirling afternoon, almost seven years ago. They were presumed dead, brutally murdered, based on the amount of blood found at the scene. Their nephew Stephen quickly became the prime suspect, hounded by the police, and facing seemingly irrefutable incriminating evidence of his guilt, he is soon accused, arrested, and brought to trial.

Castillo is drawn-in and begins to delve into the financial issues of the estate and into their disappearance and possible murders. Manny, his cousin, a former Miami detective, and Dr. Pierre De Baptist, the Miami medical examiner and a close friend are enlisted to aid in Stephen’s defense.

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